Monday, July 18, 2011


Home again ... and now to prepare for my September 2011 Camino de Santiago journey.  This year I am 'Walking Home' or 'closing the circle'.  I am starting in Santiago de Compostela (SdC), Spain and hopefully finishing where my 2002, 2003 and 2007 pilgrimages started, Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port (SJPP), France.

Tanya, Sophie, Garry and I visit Hitchin Lavender at Cadwell Farm and on the way passed this sign for a Guild of Master Sweeps meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Waltham Abbey.
It was a rainy day but not long before we arrived at Cadwell Farm the rain stopped and we had clear weather for our visit.  I was reminded of the Camino when mud collected on the bottom of my boots with each step down the hill.  There are different types and colors of lavender at the farm.


Wednesday, July 13, 2011


The lovely old Tudor building at the heart of Waltham Abbey, Essex where we stayed with our friends.
We visit London for a ride on the London Eye and a walk along the South Embankment.  It was a beautiful London day with mild temperatures and warm with scattered clouds.
First, the 4Dexperience where a seagull flew out from the screen in 3D and in 4D the floor rumbled, rain fell, a boy sprayed water at the viewers from his water-gun and snow fell on us.  Next, although it was a busy day we were quickly moved through the lines into a Pod on the Eye.  This is an amazing experience and scary for some but well worth waiting for. Then after the London Eye we walked along South Embankment watching the street entertainers and followed that with a drink before returning home.  
Houses of Parliament, Big Ben and the clock.
Big Ben with the square tower of Westminster Abbey in the background.
Sophie Grace and Teddy were a little scared but able to smile.
Westminster Abbey the Tower, Big Ben ....
Blue Man not playing drums
'Michael Jackson' begging for money!
A little color in London.
Teddy and Sophie Grace help 'Captain Franko' perform.
Sophie Grace has fun on a carousel ride, not scared here.

Monday, July 11, 2011


Berlin was a whirlwind tour for us as we had very little time with our feet on the ground.  The ship docked at Warnemünde, a three hour bus trip from Berlin.  We had six hours in Berlin (with one hour devoted to lunch).  We were kept busy and the tour company tried to show us much of the city.

The drive to and fro was interesting and I would love to return to tour independently, Andrée interested?  :)
Schloss Charlottenburg where we had fifteen minutes at the gate after our Berlin Tour Guide met us.
Siegessäeule, the victory column as seen from the bus.
Brandenburger Tor - Brandenburg Gate as seen from the bus.  We did not get to step out of the bus here, sad really.
Berliner Dom - the Berlin Cathedral, we were able to get out of the bus here for ten minutes.
Then we went on a boat tour on the River Spree.  This is the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (House of World Cultures) otherwise known as the pregnant oyster.
Fernsehturm Berlin - the tallest structure in Germany.  The television tower as seen from the bus.
Berlin's River Spree where we took a river cruise.
Statue of an American who walked the Berlin Wall daily as a protest to it being built.
Checkpoint Charlie - for tourists, not the real one of course, is in the Checkpoint Charlie area as seen from bus.
I have been to Berlin before and know there are far prettier sections of the Berlin Wall to see but this is what we were shown from the bus.
KaDeWe - Berlin's equivalent of London's Harrod's. The department store where I bought my Falke camino walking socks, the best!

Leaving Berlin we cruised through the Kiel Canal towards Harwich, England.  When I woke at 0525 the weather was clear but by the time I was up on deck the mist arrived, it cleared later.  We had some beautiful views of Germany.  

I was on the top deck as the sun came up, oh it was so beautiful.
A fisherman, what a tranquil scene .....
Here comes a bridge, phew are we going to make it under the low bridge?
Maybe, maybe not .... it looks close.
Oops, I forgot about the funnel .... it went under the bridge easily.
The Netherlands is not the only country in Europe with old windmills, this looks such a lovely peaceful setting.
It is so green and beautiful here .....

This ship and the next shared the lock .... that is how big the locks are.

This ship shared the lock with M/V Discovery.  I enjoyed going through the Kiel Canal and now want to go along the Panama Canal.

Saturday, July 09, 2011


Day One: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Saint Petersburg, Russia and Tallinn, Estonia are White Nights territory where the summer nights are long however, this means the winter days are short.  This is a city I have always wanted to visit and would like to return for a longer stay. 

Lighthouse on Vasilievsky Island, St. Petersburg, Russia.
This is not an old ship but a modern reproduction which is a restaurant on the River Neva.
Peter and Paul Cathedral, Russian Orthodox cathedral inside the Peter and Paul Fortress, Saint Petersburg, Russia. This is the first and oldest landmark in Saint Petersburg, built 1712-1733 under Peter the Great.  The world's tallest orthodox bell tower.
Gold, gold, gold .... wherever we visited in Saint Petersburg there is an abundance of gold.
The tombstones of Tzar Nicholas II and his family (assassinated in 1917).  The relics of the family are entombed here in St. Catherine's Chapel.

Catherine Palace was the summer residence of the Russian tzars, located at Pushkin 25 kms south-east of Saint Petersburg, Russia.

Every room in this palace is decorated in the Rococo style with as much gold as in this dining room.
When Catherine the Great died they found over 15,000 dresses in her closets, she did not wear the same dress twice.
This room is as beautiful as the Hall of Mirrors, Palais de Versailles, Paris, France.
Breathtaking, opulent, beautiful.
The gardens are very pretty .....

The Amber Room
Also at this palace we saw the reproduction of the Amber Room. Originally installed in Schloss Charlottenburg, home of Friedrich I, the first King of Prussia.  Peter the Great admired the room on a visit in 1716 and the then King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm I, presented the room to Peter the Great and it was installed in the Winter Palace.  In 1755 Czarina Elizabeth ordered the room to be moved to Catherine Palace in Pushkin (named Tsarskoye Selo or "Czar's Village").  In 1941 the Nazis looted the palace and shipped the Amber Room to Königsberg Castle museum on the Baltic Coast.  The original panels went missing in 1945 never to be recovered.  The room is spectacular but photography is not allowed, so no photo.  Google: Amber Room, Catherine Palace.

Day Two: Saint Petersburg, Russia
Peterhof (Petrodvorets) is an Imperial Estate at Peterhof outside St. Petersburg.  Photographs not allowed inside the palace so only the garden is featured.
Our meeting point was the two headed eagle (Russia's symbol). Actually it has three heads and from wherever you view the eagle only two heads can be seen.
Gold and more gold again .....

State Hermitage Museum
We return to Saint Petersburg and visit The Hermitage ( and are 'blown away' by the buildings and the artwork.  With the time being limited we first looked at the main rooms and then spent our hours viewing the exhibitions.  It is estimated that there are nearly three million items and twenty-four miles of corridors in The Hermitage so it is not possible to see it all in one afternoon.  Another visit to Saint Petersburg is required!

 The central staircase.
 Look at this gold .... more gold
 The portrait room
I liked this room better than the previous 'gold' room

A Lamont Doherty scientist made me aware of Caravaggio about ten years ago and when I can, I look for his work. The Hermitage have one Caravaggio, The Lute Player, and it is beautiful. Photography without flash is permitted throughout The Hermitage.
The Lute Player, Caravaggio (1571-1610) ca. 1595. The five senses are shown in this painting: smell - flowers, taste - fruit, sight - eyes looking at viewer, hearing - music, touch - lute playing.
There are many beautiful rooms and corridors at The Hermitage
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), View of Collioure c. 1905
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Music, 1910
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Dance, 1910
Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Still life with Blue Tablecloth 1909

The Peacock Clock, 18th century, James Cox - English clockmaker
Titan (Tiziano Vecellio) c. 1488 Pieve di Cadore - 1576 Venice, The Penitent Mary Magdalene

A reproduction of Raphael's Loggias erected in the Vatican Palace.
Russia's symbolic two headed eagle (painted on a ceiling).
Antonio Canal (Canaletto), 1697-1758 Venice, Reception of the French Ambassador in Venice, Acquired before 1773

Tallinn, Estonia 
This was our fifth visit to Estonia and we spent the day with Garry's family, therefore not many photographs from Tallinn. The family drove us 100kms northeast of Tallinn to Haapsalu where we all met at the summer home of a family member.  We then walked around the town before having lunch on the verandah of a lovely old lakeside restaurant.  Garry told me he recognized a woman from the ship (whom we knew) and went outside to greet her.  Yep, there was an excursion group from the ship that lunched inside at the same restaurant during their tour. 
Tallinn from the port where M/V Discovery docked.
The Lake at Haapsalu - it was a beautiful day for a walk.
The restaurant where we had lunch. We were on the verandah.  The M/V Discovery tour group lunched inside the restaurant.
This is not really a polar bear.
Some family members enjoy being 'on' the lake
Family members walking around the lake .....